Soccer fans in the UK would broadly support a ban on gambling advertising in the sport.
Many EPL team sponsors have little interest in engaging with the UK market, but instead want to piggyback on the league’s global appeal. (Image: The Guardian Composite: Getty Images, Shutterstock, PA)
That’s the takeaway from a new poll by Survation, which found that 44 percent of all respondents agreed with the statement, “All gambling sponsorship and promotion in football [soccer] should end.”
That’s against 34 percent who disagreed, leaving 22 percent undecided or disinterested.
Of those who agreed with a ban, 21 percent did so strongly, while 13 percent of those that disagreed said they did so strongly.
Blot on ‘the Beautiful Game’
In the US, sports teams are exploring lucrative new sponsorship deals with gambling companies, while praising sports betting’s ability to increase fan engagement. But British fans, having experienced 60 years of legal sports betting and a liberalized market for 15 years, are beginning to find it a turnoff, or at least the advertising surrounding it. Many feel this has reached a saturation point and view it as a blot on “the beautiful game.”
Of the top 44 teams in English soccer, 26 sport betting logos on their jerseys this season. Most, at least in the English Premier League, aren’t companies engaging with the UK market at all. Instead, they’re using the EPL’s global profile as a springboard to hard-to-reach black markets, like China.
But the survey found that more than one-third of all British soccer fans are put off buying their team’s jersey if it has a betting company logo emblazoned across the front.
“The government would have the backing of football fans if it decided to move against gambling ads, and clubs would benefit from an increase in shirt sales,” summarized Matt Zarb-Cousin, the director of “Clean Up Gambling,” whose organization commissioned the Survation poll.
Whistle to Whistle
But industry body the Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) noted that betting provides sports with funding, while enabling TV channels to show more sports.
“It also plays a vital role in differentiating legally licensed operators from those in the black market who have none of the safety protections in place with UK operators,” the BGC said in a statement.
“The BGC is determined to drive up standards across the betting and gaming industry, and looks forward to working with the government on its forthcoming gambling review to do just that,” a BGC spokesperson continued.
The UK government has indicated that it will soon implement reforms to the country’s 2015 Gambling Act, and many suspect that sports advertising will be first on the chopping block.
In August 2019, in a bid to preempt a regulatory crackdown, the industry agreed a self-imposed “whistle-to-whistle” ban on showing gambling ad spots during live sports broadcasts before 9 pm.
The ban has slashed the number of ads seen by children by 97 percent, according to research from Enders Analysis.
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